‘Marvellous’ Fleur de Lys Youth FC celebrate Drayton Park pavilion reopening – two years after arson attack
One of the Portsmouth area’s biggest youth football clubs have celebrated the reopening of their clubhouse.
The pavilion roof at Drayton Park - home of the Fleur de Lys youth club - was damaged in an arson attack in late September 2018.
In addition, inside facilities were damaged as a result of the water used to extinguish the fire.
Since then, the club have been fundraising to replace the roof and make further improvements to the facilities.
Around £15,000 was raised - half of which came from a sponsored run held along Southsea seafront.
That figure was supplemented by additional funding from various sports foundations and also a Covid grant – in total around £15,000 as well.
Work on the new roof began after Portsmouth City Council granted planning permission in March.
The inside of the building has also been decorated, new toilets installed, an area next to the clubhouse has been fenced off with a container unit installed, and mobile goals have also been bought.
The Fleur de Lys club was founded back in the late 1960s and currently boasts 30 junior boys teams and a handful of girls teams. It also has an adult side playing in the Portsmouth Sunday League.
All the youngsters will no doubt be hoping to emulate the career of former Fleur de Lys player Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has progressed to the Premier League and won England international caps.
Chairman Steve Jackson said the club had come a long way since the 1990s when it almost folded with only £75 ‘in the pot.’
Jackson said: ‘We’re a community club and our strength is in our numbers.
‘We are a club like no other - everyone, managers, parents, strives to do the right thing.
‘I’ve got a great team of managers and volunteers, I don’t get any dramas.
‘Everyone has a passion and an enthusiasm that rubs off on the kids.
‘It’s an absolutely marvellous club, it really is.’
Jackson said it was ‘wonderful’ to see the clubhouse reopening at the weekend and the ‘Soccer Tots’ - a group of three to six-year-olds - training in the wet weather.
‘The club has been here for 53 years and it’s my belief that the work we have done will secure it for another 50 years at least,’ he remarked.
The joy of the clubhouse reopening, though, was tinged with sadness that Dom Merrix was not there to see it.
Instrumental in helping to introduce girls teams into the club, avid Pompey fan Dom passed away in April of this year due to Covid-19.
‘Everyone involved in the girls teams will keep Dom’s name going,’ said Jackson.
‘We have four or five girls teams now where two years ago we didn’t have any.
‘We have 30 boys teams - there is a pathway from aged three to men’s football.
‘We are a diverse club, and from that we get different ideas, different input.
‘We just want people to enjoy it - it’s about creating memories, it’s not all about winning.
‘Winning shouldn’t be the be all and end all.’
Jackson said Drayton Park was a ‘dark hole’ when his club started using the facilities around 15 years ago.
The club battled hard to upgrade the tennis courts there and the new clubhouse should hopefully attract more groups. A new yoga class has just started up.
‘We can bring in over 1,000 people at a weekend,’ said Jackson.
‘The people who run this club are just the keyholders - it’s for everyone.’